Teufel Decoderstation 5 review

£161
Price when reviewed

The last time we saw a Teufel Decoderstation was in a speaker package a couple of months ago. We were impressed with the decoder itself, but less so with the speakers, so when the company told us it was releasing a new version of the former, we decided to look at it on its own.

Teufel Decoderstation 5 review

It’s a novel product. Designed as an all-in-one surround sound processing unit, it can connect not only your PC or laptop to a 2.1, 3.1 or 5.1 speaker set, but will also process the inputs from variety of other sources – your DVD player, for instance, or Sony PlayStation 3.

The impressive range of connections means you needn’t stop there. This box may only be the size of a couple of stacked VHS tapes, but every inch of its rear panel is crammed with sockets.

There are two optical S/PDIF and two coaxial inputs; you get a set of analogue 5.1 inputs and outputs; plus for good measure, three pairs of stereo inputs for hooking up your CD player or TV – a total of eight inputs altogether.

It’s designed to be paired up with one of Teufel’s surround sound speaker sets, such as the Magnum Concept E 200s, but it could equally be used to power a speaker set from another manufacturer.

Just bear in mind the Decoderstation is simply that – a decoder. You have to provide the amplification yourself, be that in the shape of active speakers, a 5.1 PC set with the amp in the sub, or a multi-amp hybrid setup.

Whatever setup you use it in, though, this is a remarkably versatile piece of kit. It will process DTS and Dolby Digital signals, and output not only a 5.1 signal, but also 2.1 and 3.1 for when you just want to concentrate on the music. You can tweak the delay to the centre and surround sound channels and the volume level can be altered for each speaker too.

Importantly, with all of this set up, the box remembers the settings on a per-channel basis so you don’t have to tweak the settings every time you change source, and there’s a remote control in to make tweaks easier too.

There is one problem, though, and that is with its sound quality. Compared to even a mid-price home theatre receiver, its output lacks warmth and sounds thin and insubstantial in the mid range.

With 5.1 material it’s better than with plain stereo music tracks, with a bit more of a filled-out sound lending movie soundtracks a pleasing amount of depth, breadth and detail. But no matter what we did, we couldn’t eliminate the sound’s hard, cold edge.

The Decoder Station 5 is a flexible and useful piece of kit, especially considering its size and price. It allows you to hook up all manner of equipment in all sorts of different ways without having to go down the route of investing in a bulky home theatre amp. But that harsh sound quality casts a dark shadow over an otherwise competent product.

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